I receive a lovely email about a week ago from a fair trade organization called NOVICA: http://www.novica.com/. The representative from NOVICA had read my blog post on the Paper Packet project that I am spearheading, thoght it was interesting, and wanted to introduce me to NOVICA. The organization is a fair trade one and it supports artists and artisans all over the world by giving them a place to sell their work (more on NOVICA in a later post). So this lovely surprize email started me thinking about fair trade and how we as artists can reach out a bit further than our comfort zone to help other artists in our global community.
I was first introduced to the concept of Fair Trade by a local Coffe shop called Conscious Cup: http://www.consciouscup.com/. As a matter of fact, it was one of the owners, Mike, who believed in my work and set up my very first gallery show at his shop (thanks Mike). That was some years ago (2007). OK so that is another story. Anyway, this small family run business purchases coffees that are TransFair USA “Fair Trade” Certified, Certified Organic, or certified by the Rainforest Alliance or Smithsonian Institute’s Bird Friendly programs. Only TransFair assures a floor price to members of its certified cooperatives, who must abide by, among other issues, child labor standards and a democratic structure. Organic certification and Rainforest Alliance certifications focus on environmental sustainability but also require growers to meet social and employment standards. They may also buy directly from small select farms and these coffees are labeled "Estate." Mike and the Shipley family are just passionate about this and one can taste it in their fine roasted brews. The Shipleys not only support local artists like me but other fair trade organizations too. They had an organization, who works with, I believe it was Mayan peoples, come and sell some of the artisans works. The proceeds helped to furnish a kitchen in a school. They support all sorts of fair trade products and a list of their "friends" are found on their site. With that being said, I have been a big supporter of fair trade coffee but never really thought much more about other products.
With this email from NOVICA, I started to finally realize that fair trade is so much bigger than coffee. To further explain: as an artist, I find it very difficult to just give one of my pieces as a gift to my friends because well, fine art is a very personal thing and I would hate for someone to receive a piece and hate it...or worse, not feel any emotion at all. Of course if my friends want a commission or purchase a piece of art, that is totally different. I don't know about you, but my close friends are very hard to buy for. That is where supporting a fair trade organization for artists comes in. It just seems very special to purchase a gift for a friend from an artist or an artisan who struggles in a most difficult environment. Supporting an artist who is trying to support his or her family in order to give them the most basic necessities and creature comforts that we all take for granted, well it just plain appeals to me and I know that presenting such a gift to a special friend would mean a lot. Organizations who seek out such artists usually frequent third world areas. I do fight with myself over this issue too though because I know that right here in America, the poorest of the poor struggle in the same manner. Everyday, people loose their homes, live out of their cars or on the street, don't have enough food to feed themselves let alone their family.... Yet I know there are other ways that I can reach out to them...volunteering through a variety of organizations, donating dollars, etc.. I do not think that our poorest are selling their handmade products on sites such as ETSY. Don't get me wrong, I love ETSY and follow several artists and artisans. I purchase from ETSY for myself and others, however, by purchasing fair trade, I have taken that helping hand one step further into the world. Yes, I think I like this idea very much. I am going to take a closer look at this fair trade site called NOVICA. And then, I write a little review for all of you. Who know...maybe a little surprize will come along with that review.
Thank you all for indulging me.